Camels: The Ship of the Desert (page 2)

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Author: Janice VanCleave


To determine how camels can walk across sand without sinking.


  • dime
  • lid from a 1-quart (1-liter) jar
  • 4-by-4-inch (10-by-10-cm) square of corrugated cardboard
  • pencil
  • scissors
  • 1 cup of sand or salt
  • cereal bowl


  1. Place the dime and lid on the cardboard. Use the pencil to draw an outline around each, then cut out the circles.
  2. Pour the sand into the bowl.
  3. Gently shake the bowl to make the surface of the sand smooth and level.
  4. Place the small cardboard circle in the center of the sand's surface.
  5. Stand the pencil on the cardboard circle, eraser end down.
  6. Push down on the pencil and try to push the cardboard circle into the sand. Make note of how far the cardboard moves beneath the sand's surface.
  7. Camels

  8. Repeat steps 3 through 6, using the large cardboard circle.


The small cardboard circle can be pushed beneath the surface of the sand but the large circle cannot be pushed under the surface.


Pressing against the larger cardboard circle results in the force being spread over a larger area. Like the large cardboard circle in this experiment, a camel's feet are large, so the weight on them is spread out. This allows camels to carry heavy loads and still walk easily on soft sand where trucks would get stuck. Some camels have feet as big as large plates.

More Fun With Camels!

Camels have natural sun visors that help to shield their eyes from sunlight. These visors are made of bones that form broad ridges above their eyes. These bones stick out far enough to block sunlight when the Sun is overhead. Show how protrusions (something that sticks out) above your eyes can block sunlight. Make a paper visor for each eye by folding an index card in half, placing the small sides together. Unfold the card and cut across the fold. Lay the two card pieces side by side. Place a 36-inch (1-m) piece of string across the cards about ½ inch (1.25 cm) from one end of the cards. Tape the string to the cards. Bend the short end of the cards over the string. Tie the string around your head so that the short bent ends of the cards are against your forehead and above each eye. If necessary, bend the cards so that the long end of each card sticks out over your eyes. Stand under an overhead ceiling light or go outdoors when the Sun is overhead. Note how the papers block light from your eyes. Caution: Never look directly at the Sun because doing so can permanently damage your eyes.


Book List

  • Legg, Gerald, and Steve Weston. The World of Animal Life. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1998. Facts about how camels and other animals move, eat, hunt, defend themselves, and much more.
  • Mammals. Alexandria, Va.: Time-Life Books, 1997. Information about mammals, including camels.
  • Ruiz, Andres Llamas. Animals on the Inside. New York: Sterling Publishing Co., 1994. A book of discovery about the internal body parts of many animals, including the camel.
  • Walters, Martin, and Jinny Johnson. Animals of the World. Barth, U.K., 1999. Fact-filled and image-packed pages that investigate and describe the anatomy, behavior, and habitats of over 1,000 animals.


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